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International relations

Putin’s “hybrid warfare” on the West

Vladimir Putin: making us believe “nothing is true and everything is possible”

Vladimir Putin is already waging war against the West, says Andreas Kluth in Bloomberg, just not the guns-and-bullets kind. At the same time as bombing Ukraine and loudly threatening nuclear escalation, the “KGB-trained warlord” is also ramping up the “hybrid warfare” he’s spent decades mastering. In recent weeks he has (probably) blown up gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea; caused rail services in the north of Germany to come “to a screeching halt for several hours” by cutting crucial radio cables; and launched cyberattacks on US airports. The clever thing about these attacks is that we can’t prove who did them. Those in the know tend to finger Putin as the prime suspect, while others “dredge up conspiracy theories from the nether regions of the Kremlin’s propaganda swamp” and deny Russian involvement.

This is exactly the point. Putin wants us to turn against our compatriots and begin to believe, as the author Peter Pomerantsev has put it, that “nothing is true and everything is possible”. What’s troubling is that it seems to be working. He’s proved he can cut off our water, our internet and our energy at any time, which is a cheap, effective way to make many people in the West more frightened of him. We’re stuck in an uncomfortable state of being “no longer fully at peace and not yet really at war”. It’s a disturbing experience, but we’d better get used to it fast – “and show Putin we know his vulnerabilities too”.